I’ve always been an artist. Not necessarily a good one, but drawing did something for me that nothing else could do. I was centered and no where else when I had a pencil in my hand and a sketchpad in my lap. After my daughter was killed, I spent hours silently on the couch. Doing drawing after drawing of rocks. My mind was soothed by the sound of the lead on paper. My body, wracked with pain, would turn it’s attention to the fine motor skills needed to draw, and I’d have a period of lessened physical torture. When I draw, or paint, I am nowhere but right there, in that moment. It’s the closest I come to meditating.
When we lose a child, our life is permanently divided into two distinct time frames. Before and After. The letters used to denote periods of time, BC and AD have a new meaning to me. Before Crash and After Death. It’s how our lives are segmented now. We exist in the after but long for the before. Living in this limbo is exhausting. We know we must participate in the life around us but we can’t help letting our minds wander to days long ago. Or maybe not so long ago. Days so close we can almost touch them.
The only place I’ve found, that gives me a reprieve, is in my studio.
Let me say this: writing helps me heal, as well. But, writing is where I purposely access the emotions and examine them. I have to allow them to wash over me and take over my mind so I can write, as truthfully as possible, about my experience. It’s a painful and exhausting activity. Often, I feel completely worn out need to just finish the day by going to bed immediately after I’m finished. I write because I HAVE to. There is a story in me that I need to share, to lighten it’s weight on my soul, and to hopefully help others not feel alone in this. But painting soothes my emotions instead of bringing them to the surface.
As I said above, we live in an world that has been dissected by the death of our child. We are continually assaulted with “used to be” and “should have been”. I know I often feel as if I am talking myself from the edge of a ledge that leads to all engulfing pain. My heart can only take so much, in one day, before all my closely held emotions spill free. The closest I’ve come to that ledge, lately, is when a pregnant girl and her mother stood at the deli counter where I work. They discussed the cravings they had in common during their pregnancies. A special bonding conversation for mother and daughter that nearly caused me to come unhinged. I’ve learned to hide these moments from others. Most don’t understand.
When I get home, after a day like this, I sit down at my easel and can feel a sense of calm enfold me. I’ve read that meditation helps us detach. It reduces stress and alleviates anxiety,but not for me. I have tried numerous times, over the years, to use meditation as a means to mental well being. Not once has it worked for me. My mind races and starts circling unpleasant thoughts. I begin to worry that I can’t do anything right, even meditation, like other people. I end up feeling worse than when I started. Let me add, I do know meditation works for people and I don’t want to sound as if I think it’s a waste of time. It isn’t. Fortunately, I’ve found my meditative activity.
In the past year, I’ve started doing something I never thought I would have, or could have. I lead painting events for groups of people. Some have been for profit, but the ones that mean the most to me are the ones that I donate my time to help raise funds. Because of being a grieving mom, I’ve met other bereaved moms who have foundations to help others, in the memory of their child. Generally, the painting we do is simple, only taking a few hours, but for those hours I am helping others learn about the healing quality to creating.
Creating, for me, isn’t about the end product (unless I am doing a commission for someone else.). It’s about the process. The journey, not the destination. I’m not looking at the two pieces of my life, the before and after, I am existing in the now. My daughter is with me, I haven’t forgotten her,she is happy because I have found a moment of peace.
The smell of the paint, feel of the brush in my hand, and the colors on the palette are all very soothing to me. My two dogs at my feet, the warmth of the cat on my lap, all work together to create harmony in my soul. Though these moments are brief, they can save a very difficult day from complete ruin.
I’m currently working on a series titled “Healing Places”, which for me, are always in nature. The image above is the canvas I am working on currently. Bringing the two types of healing together for me, being in them and painting them, is having a very uplifting effect on my soul. A peace I so very badly want to help other grieving mothers find. Whether it be painting, writing, running, gardening or meditating. Whatever it is. Our souls NEED this in order to heal. To remain strong. You deserve this time for yourself and your soul.
In that spirit, my studio is always open to anyone who feels the need to paint.